and subtleties of the book trade can seem rather cryptic, arcane and even stupid.
What follows, is a primer of the terms and tactics used among the purveyors
and collectors of out-of-print and rare books. Many of these terms have
been in use for several hundred years. Unfortunately, the Internet has
brought with it a general dumbing-down of any traditional knowledge or
nomenclature. Many of these terms are endangered. Read quickly!
64mo., 32mo., 16mo., 12mo., 8vo., 4to., Fo. See sizes.
ABPC. American Book Prices Current. Either a very poorly
formed sentence or an inappropriately named title of a series of books/CDs,
published annually, listing the hammer prices of worldwide book
and map auctions. The proprietor seems to have lost the proprietary information
battle and has illogically priced himself out of the reach of those who might care.
Abridged. From a collector's point of
view, usually implies a reprint, thus not as valuable as an original version.
The book does not include the full text (condensed), as opposed to unabridged,
which is the complete work.
Advanced (Reading or Uncorrected) Copy. A copy of a freebie book
sent by publishers to reviewers, book store chains, etc., prior to publication,
in an effort to build some buzz. Usually soft bound (wrappers). Often
found in the wild with no illustrations on the covers. A review (announcement)
slip or a confidentiality agreement may be laid in. Ironically, they are
the true first editions of many books, but in spite of that, they are
collected by only a handful of hardy purists. See proof copy.
a.e.g. All edges gilt. The top, fore-edge
and bottom edges are covered with very thin layer of gold foil.
Age. The age of a book has very little to do with its value.
The value of rare books is determined by demand, condition and edition.
Obviously, valuable books may in fact, be old, but age is not the first
consideration. There is NO shortage of books from the late 1800s, that
have virtually no value, except to the rapacious owner of your local pulp
mill. Keep in mind, authors that were popular 100 years ago, for the most
part are long forgotten, and probably are not collected unless they are
the real deal.
alia. see iana.
ALS. Autographed letter signed. Redundant.
Anchor. see door stop
Annotated. Notes, preferably by the author, offering
a brief explanation or description about the subject at hand.
Anthology. A collection of literary works, limited to
a specific genre (sci-fi, horror, etc.) or author.
Almost never collected, and almost always impossible to sell.
Antiquarian. Antique misspelled. Literal translation:
Append price on any given book with a zero.
Apocryphal. A book with spurious authorship.
Appraisals. Dealers solicit appraisals
so they can get access to your stuff and buy it — cheap. While this
may be a bit of an over-generalization, you get my point. Back in the
day, appraisals were very labor intensive and mind-numbingly tedious.
Today the appraiser looks the items up on the Internet, jots down some ephemeral price and hopes for the best (meaning you
or the IRS don't start asking questions). If you want to learn what your
books are worth, you can do most of the heavy lifting yourself (pun intended).
Start by looking your books up on bookfinder.com.
Prepare to be disappointed! If you need an appraisal for tax or insurance
reasons, expect to pay for it. Some of us actually value our knowledge
(and time) and charge accordingly. If you are looking for what we affectionately
call an "estimate of value", that is another thing! For instance,
a dealer may look at your stash and tell you to A) incinerate it B) donate
it to a local charity and take the tax deduction, or C) indicate that
you have some nice items, worthy of further investigation. At this point,
if you express an interest in selling, he may make you an offer. You can
1) say yes 2) say no, or 3) make a counteroffer. If after all this, you
decide that you don't want to sell, both of you are left in pretty much
in the same lose-lose predicament that you found yourselves in before
you met. Don't bother asking the dealer to share with you individual book
values, because: A) statistically speaking, he is probably clueless B)
if he doesn't want the item, he may merely inflate the value just to make
you feel better, or C) if he does want it, there is a good chance what
he tells you, may not be cut from whole cloth, whatever that means.
Reading Copy. See proof copy.
Armorial (Binding). A binding which is decorated with
a coat of arms that indicates the royal lineage of its (original) owner.
A big deal in the U.K. and on the Continent. Here: yawn.
Bindings. One of the more creative aspects of book construction.
Artists will make books, paper and fasteners from a variety of materials.
Quite rare and valuable. Usually one of a kind. Here are some nice examples.
Artifacts. Objects, usually forgotten between two pages,
usually as in pressed flowers and not money.
As Issued. There is something wrong with the book, but
it doesn't matter, because that's the way it came.
Association Copy. A copy of
a book that has been inscribed by the author,
to someone intimately close to the author. Considered a quintessential
"get" in book collecting, especially if inscribed to someone
who has the goods on the author.
Author's First Book. From a collector's
standpoint, these are very desirable and among the scarcest items in the
book world. Publishers don't want to bet the farm on an unknown author,
so they don't print many copies of a first book. If the author gets lucky
and sells well, his second book will have a much larger print run and
so it goes. By the time his 30th book rolls around, a print run of 500,000
copies will not be unusual. These editions will NEVER be scarce or rare
Autobiography. A fictional account of a person's life,
written by that person. Often penned (by ghost writers) in an effort to
restock diminishing coffers or to resurrect a tattered reputation. Differs
from a diary, in that it is meant for public consumption, although the
diary would probably make for much better reading.
Back Matter. The written material that follows the text.
May take the form of advertisements, notes, appendices or bibliographies.
Often numbered using Roman numerals.
Back Strip. See spine.
Beveled Boards. Usually found on older books (often built in the
British Isles) with thick boards. The covers of
the book have a sloping edge.
Bibles, Old. Still the most printed book in history, ergo, not uncommon. We used to have some drug-addled
dork who would try to sell us bibles that he stole from the church across
the river. Perhaps the message from on high was lost on him, but I digress.
There is virtually no market for old bibles, unless they were published
pre-1800. At that point they are not collected because they are bibles,
but by whom they were published. There are some exceptions (as always),
but they (the reasons) tend to be rather esoteric. The old, monstrous,
family bibles are usually of no interest to anyone but the family (or
not), the occasional genealogist or interior decorator. Over the years,
I have been amazed how casually family members discard these old tomes,
throwing away 100+ years of family history. Wait! Upon a moment's reflection,
I understand completely!
Bibliobibule. Someone who reads a bunch.
Biblioclasm. The destruction of books.
Biblioclast. A book hater.
Bibliodemon. A serious book freak.
Bibliognoste. A person who really knows books.
Bibliographer. One who catalogs books
or creates bibliographies (a chronological list and description of works
by an author, or on a particular subject).
Bibliography. The description
and identification of editions, issue dates, points and authorship of books or other written material.
Biblioklept. A book thief.
Bibliolater. A book worshiper.
Bibliolestes. A robber of books.
Bibliology. The lore of books.
Bibliolot. See miniature.
Bibliomancer. A person who divines by books.
Bibliomane. A book collector who doesn't have a clue.
Bibliomaniac. A person who REALLY likes books, bordering
on the psychotic.
Bibliopegy. The art of binding books. Anthropodermic
bibliopegy refers to books bound using human skin.
Bibliophile. Someone who likes or works with books.
Bibliophobe. A crybaby
Bibliopole. Someone deranged enough to
attempt to sell books for a living. Booksellers fall into two basic camps,
those who in order to eat, must sell books and those that don't. BookSellers,
by and large, are a fiercely independent and eclectic breed. Sadly, the
pipe smoking, thread-bare corduroy sport coat with leather padded elbows,
uber-intellectual, cat-surrounded book seller is all but extinct,
supplanted by high-speed broadband for $19.99 a month. The Internet has
enabled any moron with a computer to call hizself a bookseller (15,000+ at last count).
Some book sellers are under the illusion, that because they can sell a
book penned by Einstein, that somehow that makes them smarter than Einstein.
Most tend to be rather liberal in their leanings (not that there is anything
wrong with that), as evidenced by their incoherent ramblings in the ABE chat
rooms. A committed book seller has invested substantial capital in
a reference library, time in learning the trade and truly enjoys researching
and handling books. The new breed should just be committed.
Biblioripros. An idiot that likes to toss books around (while sober).
Bibliosopher. A well-read sage.
Bibliotaph. A person who likes to hide books. A fetish.
And a darn fine one at that!
Bibliothecal. Belonging to a library.
Bibliothecary. A librarian. Ssshh.
Binding. Most books are described as cloth
or boards. It simply indicates a hard back casing. Wrappers refers to
books which are not hard bound. It is also a more expensive way of describing
a paperback. Leather bound books correctly implies the use a dead animal
of some sort. Calf bindings are made from the hides of dead calves (take
a deep breathe and work through it). Vellum (a whitish, almost translucent material) is usually derived from goat or lamb entrails. Bibliophiles
have been known to spend many a drunken hour deliberating whether or not
the unfortunate animal need be unborn or not to qualify as true vellum.
As far as we are concerned, only Lambchop should care.
Biography. An account of a person's life, written by
someone who usually either resents or idolizes the subject.
Biopredation. The results of what living organisms do
to a book, when they get hungry.
Blind Stamp. 1) Small indentation often found on the
lower, rear panel, near spine on Book Club Editions 2) Sometimes personal
ownership stamps found on pages, imprinted with an embossing stamp. Basically,
an imprint with no ink.
Blurb(s). The sales pitch or catalog description of an item for
sale. The price of the book increases in direct proportion to the length
of the blurb.
Boards. A hard bound book. The term originates
from early book covers which were fabricated from slats of wood. The wood
was then covered with leather or some type of fabric (ergo cloth).
Present day books are constructed using the cheapest, cheesiest type of
cardboard that the publisher can muster.
Book Club Editions. Once a publisher has milked a book
for all the sales it is worth, he sells the publishing rights off to a
book club. They then reprint the thing on cheap paper, slap on a cheap
binding, stain the top edge some weird color, blind stamp the bottom-rear
corner of the book, slap on a new dust jacket and ship it off to a trailer
Collectors won't touch them. Thrift stores will. There actually are a
couple of BC books that are kind of rare and command some serious money,
but if I told you what they were I would have to kill you. I know a guy
who is a serious modern first collector who buys BC editions of all his
favorite books so he has something to read in the bath tub. A visual I
would prefer to not have to make. Tip: Try to avoid simultaneous usage
of book club editions, toasters and tubs.
Book Collecting. Stimulating, challenging and potentially
addicting. Only two things to remember: First edition and condition. That's it!
Before the Internet brought about the demise of nearly all the brick and
mortars, collectors would scurry hither and yon, in pursuit of their favorite
authors, subjects or whatever blew their skirts up. These days, what is
lacking in the thrill of the hunt is more than made up for by the convenience
of never having to leave ones cubicle. Book collections are as diverse
as the personalities of their collectors. Judicious collectors, I have
observed, tend to be intelligent, introspective, solitary and
whacked out slightly eccentric. Over the years I have assisted innumerable
people to fill in the holes in their collections (i.e. an authors' first
book, manuscripts, proof
copies, etc.). These days most collectors rely on their own wits and
Google to attain their swag. If you are new to this game, start by picking
something to collect that interests you. Tips: 1) Locate a checklist (or simply look at the list of your favorite author's books listed in
the front of one of the books) of your topic or author and get to it.
2) Obtain whatever copies you can at first and then trade up in condition
or edition. Sell or trade off your dregs 3) Stay focused. It is easy to
become distracted by tangentially related material 4) Pencil in what you
think your more valuable books are worth on the last page of each book.
That way, when you get hit by that proverbial bus, your neer-do-well kids
will at least have a clue as to what the things are worth and they can
then act accordingly (ha ha, good luck with that! 5) Ultimately, try to build a collection consisting of the nicest copies you can find. This will ensure pride of ownership and will certainly help your resale potential.
Here are just a few examples of the types of books collectors collect...
All books by a particular author (i.e. Harper Lee).
Award winners. Pulitzer, Caldecott, The Edgar, etc.
Books that were made
into movies. GWTW, LOTR, etc.
All published versions of a certain title. The Rubaiyat, Wizard of Oz,
Specialties. magic, doll making, motorcycles, etc.
Fore-edge painted books.
Biographies. Einstein, Earhart, Edison, etc.
Travel guides. Baedekers, atlases, gazetteers, etc.
Battles. Little Big Horn, Vicksburg, etc.
Specific illustrators. Dore, Rackham, Dulac, Hague, etc.
Publishers. Grabhorn, Roycrofters, Arkham House, etc.
imagination be your guide!
Here is a
fairly typical scenario illustrating the normal progression of the
disease wonderful world of book collecting. At first, innocently enough, you manage
to obtain copies of all the various books that your favorite author has
written. Fine. The transformation will be subtle, you may start feeling
the need for something a little stronger. Your dealer turns you on to
your first first edition. The cravings will require first editions of
each title. Warning: it won't be enough. You will then turn to the dreaded
dust jackets - preferably, unclipped (price) dust jackets. Inevitably, you will
move on to the hard stuff: signed or inscribed copies. Your fate is sealed.
All the while, you have been upgrading all of your copies to the finest
condition you can afford. Friends and family may futilely try to intervene
at this point. Where will it end? You haven't reached bottom yet. Now
you are lusting for proof copies. Had enough? Enjoying those night sweats? At long last,
you finally posses the authors' personal copy of your favorite book, inscribed
to him by his dear, departed Mother! Done? Hardly. You just
obtained the fully-annotated, handwritten manuscript of the author's first
book, complete with coffee cup stains and the author's DNA (which can
be extracted from the dried tears). By this time, you are living in a
flop house South of Market, but hey, look on the bright side, your book
collection is almost complete. You may have surmised by now, all this
may require certain degree of intestinal fortitude. Have no fear, you
ARE up to the task! Hell, you are reading this, how much more difficult could anything be?
Collecting certain authors may offer varying degrees of difficulty, depending
on how many books they wrote, number of copies printed, whether or not
they signed many books, etc. Hint: Don't bother trying to get J.D. Salinger's
signature on your Book Club edition of The Catcher in the Rye.
It you are serious about collecting, it helps if you have a professional
bookseller looking out for your best interests. Unfortunately, the Internet
has made the knowledge and experience of most professional booksellers
rather, how can I say this, irrelevant.
Fairs. Anachronistic events where a bunch of booksellers stand
around for several days, trying to impress themselves and occasionally
the public on how erudite they are. Painful experiences — hard on
the feet, the pocket book and the soul. Great places for book hunters
to spot heretofore unknown titles, only to subsequently scurry home and
purchase them on the Internet for a fraction of the cost. Anecdotally,
when book fairs were at their prime, the real fun was before the show!
Inexperienced and/or uninformed dealers would be off-loading their stock
and while they were setting up, the sharpies would descend like vultures,
buying up the bargains. It was not uncommon for a book to change hands
5 or 6 times before the show even opened. The price of a really special
book could go from ten to several thousand dollars in a matter of moments.
Fun times, unless you are the public.
Book Mark. A place holder. More civilized than dog-earing
a page. Collectible. Classified into two categories: destructive (leather,
paper clips, flowers and beer cans) and non-destructive (acid-free paper).
Plate. Usually a picture of a cat that is glued to one of the
end papers. Book plates can be useful in offering further proof that the
owner of the book is truly anal-retentive.
Books as Investments. Don't bother! Buy books to learn
from and enjoy. That said, there is a certain amount of pleasure in putting
together a well-thought-out book collection (although your friends, if
you have any, will only act as if they are impressed). Pre-Internet, over
the long haul, books were a decent inflation hedge. Post-Internet, all
bets are off. Due to worldwide accessibility, many books that were once
"rare" are now as common as an old shoe. If you think you are
smart enough to know which author will be popular 20 years from now, ask
yourself, "If I am that smart, shouldn't I also know which S&P
stock will be valuable in 20 years?." Can you get lucky with books?
Of course you can! A Tamerlane turns up at some duffus' New England antique store for $15 and sells it
at auction for $300,000. But what are the odds? You are better off playing
Bottom Edge. Say you go on a bender, and somehow you end up sleeping it off next to your favorite book case. Upon opening your hideously swollen eyes, the first thing you might see, perchance, is the bottom edge of a book. If fate is in your corner, it will be the Big Book. Here's to ya!
Breaker. Used as a noun, a breaker is a person who buys illustrated
books on the cheap, rips the plates out, mattes them, then sells the results
for far more than the actual value of the intact book. Breakers are a
parasitic life form that operate on the periphery of the legitimate book trade. They tend
to be destructive scavengers, ill-suited for most other professions, having
learned at an early age that it is far easier to destroy something, than
it is to create something. The results of their activities can be observed
hanging on your attorney's conference room wall.
This term can also describe a book that is lacking major components, such
as a title page, the binding or gatherings of pages and is destined to be cannibalized for what remains.
Broadside. A poster or a single sheet of paper, printed on one side. Collected by individuals with lots of wall space.
Broken Sets. Multiple volume sets of books missing a
book or more. Difficult to find the missing book(s) and if you do, they
won't match. Sets which are missing books, are even more impossible to sell than complete sets.
Buckram. A heavy cloth, usually coarse in texture, used
in covering the boards.
Bumped (corners). Squishing of the book's corners, possibly
the result of being thrown in the heat of the moment and missing the intended
c. (circa). Approximately. An educated guess at a publishing
date, for instance.
Caldecott Medal. An annual award given to the most distinguished
illustrated childrens book. Named for Victorian illustrator Randolph Caldecott. More.
Calf. See binding.
Cancel. (An older practice) A publisher may remove an offensive page
of a book that has already been bound, but not shipped, and replace the
page with a more politically correct version. If it is done well, you
will never notice. Most are rather crudely glued in and are obvious to
even an untrained eye. All things being equal, collectors will prefer
the pre-cancel versions.
(of). Keep your books: Out of direct sunlight. Well ventilated.
Dry. Standing straight or laying flat. Not packed too tightly on shelf.
Unsaraninated. Away from kids with crayons, cats, some dogs, drunks, fools.
Yup, that's just about it!
Casing. Technically, what you call a hardbound book without
Cataloger. One who classifies items by category. Or one of the endless stream of
idiots I have managed to hire, who not only don't read, but are incapable
of performing the simplest of tasks.
Census. An offshoot of a bibliography. A census tries to account for
every copy of a rare book that is extant. Should
you come across a rare book that should be in a census, but isn't, call
Chain lines. In days of yore, during
the paper manufacturing process, the pulp was squished out all flat, and
it was laid on top of parallel, thin wires (chains) strung across a vat,
to set up and dry out. As a result, you can see the residual marks from
the chains, by holding the paper up to the light. Paper constructed in
this manner is called laid or wove. Some rascally paper makers now go
so far as to fake the chain lines to make you think they are cooler than
they actually are.
Chained Books. Medieval churches often attached heavy chains to their books in an effort to prevent five-finger discounts.
Books at the time were very difficult to produce (hand written), hence
you didn't want them walking off with the local rabble.
Chapbook. Small pamphlets that were popular in the 1800s,
usually beseeching some moralistic viewpoint.
Checklist. This is a chronological list of all of the titles or
books etc., published about or by a specific author or subject. They used
to be carried around by collectors in well-worn wallets, with all but
the first three items crossed off. Nowadays, I suppose you just confer
with your PDA.
Chipping (chipped). Small chunks (usually on dust jackets)
missing along the edges.
Chrestomathy. An anthology used to demonstrate the evolution
of a particular style of communication.
Chromolithograph. Books with color plates produced using the chromolithographic
process are highly sought after, due mostly to their vibrant colors. These prints were produced in the late 1800s, for only a decade
or two. Engraved lime stones were used as the printing plates, with each color on the page having its corresponding
plate. A single image may go through 4 or 5 print phases, depending on
how many colors are used. Better quality plates had superior "register"
or the edge matching. The color quality has never been surpassed, but
the process was very labor intensive and was replaced by the much cheaper photo-offset method.
Clipped (price) Dust Jackets. Prices are cut off the corners of
dust jackets for three reasons 1) The book was given as a gift and the
giver did not want the givee to know how cheap s/he is 2) A dealer may
have cut it off, out of pure stupidity, thinking that if a potential customer
knew how much the book originally sold for, it would never sell again.
The logic escapes me, but it is none of my business 3) The clipping may
be a low-cunning form of dealer subterfuge, leading the hapless consumer
to believe that the jacket once had a priced jacket, when in fact it is
a book club edition and never had a price to begin with. Collectors (especially
of modern first editions) prefer jackets that have not been price-clipped,
as it may be construed as a defect. Is an unclipped jacket worth a premium?
Closed Tear. A rip in a dust jacket that looks pretty
good (no missing pieces).
Cloth. Just another word for a hard bound book.
Not leather bound, nor a paperback.
Coated Paper. A very thin material (emulsion) may be
added to the surface of the paper during the manufacturing process. It
gives the paper a smooth, shiny appearance. It looks nice and allows for
better print quality. Makes for heavy books.
Cocked (cocking). If the book looks like it has had one
too many, it may be cocked. Usually the result of being poorly shelved
or stored. The boards (covers) are skewed, giving
the book a sort of hung-over or is it over-hung look. It may take many years to achieve this unfortunate status, and subsequently
may be very difficult to correct, short of having the book taken apart
Codex. A very expensive synonym for a book. Before books
were books, they were scrolls. Some genius decided to cut the scroll into
pieces and slap the results between two planks of wood. And codex was
Collation. If used in a sentence as a verb
"this book has been collated", it means the contents are all
there and everything is in proper, bibliographic order. If used as an
object, as in "I am learning me some collation", it means you
conversing with a second year student of Library Science at a prestigious
Eastern University. The study of collation is not to be taken lightly.
The really tough stuff (as in very early printed books) is frighteningly reminiscent of binomial equations.
Colophon. Also known as a device. This is a little imprint, usually
found on older books, on or near the last page of text. It is put there
by the printer, so you will hopefully remember him long after he has died,
odds are, from cirrhosis of the liver. A colophon may serve as convenient
location for the author / illustrator / publisher to number and / or sign
a limited edition.
Condition. Book rating is subjective and
depends entirely who is doing the rating. The better the dealer, the more
conservative the rating. It is generally agreed (although I am not sure
by whom, since no two book sellers have ever agreed on anything) that
books are rated as:
No flaws, near perfect.
Very good. Shows some wear, no major flaws. This is clearly the
most over used term in the book trade.
Good. Basically, it's all there, but it might look or smell bad.
Reading copy. It looks or smells bad. Not much pride of ownership
Ex-libris. This poor darling has been in a library, personal
or public. Usually having been stamped, folded, stapled and generally
mutilated. If your path crosses a bookseller selling ex-libris books,
it is fair to assume that they were purchased by the dealer at the local
annual library sale for 25 cents each, or he moonlights as a dumpster
Consignments. In some cases, placing items for sale on consignment with a reputable
dealer can be most advantageous for both parties. The dealer doesn't have
to outlay any cash and the seller doesn't have to deal with the public
(or handle cataloging, credit cards, packaging, shipping, insurance, returns
and all the other joys of mercantilism). Commissions vary and are negotiable. Caution: The book trade is rife with tales of dealers and auction
houses that for some reason can't or don't want to pay consignors. Make sure you get a receipt for your items and have the dealer
include a statement that you will get paid within 10 days of a sale. ROFLMAO.
Copyright Page. Found on the back of the title page, it is kind of
like the credits following a movie. Nobody cares! However, it is where
the search for first editions commences. Publishers may attempt to confuse
you on this page, depending on their temperament (see Zemple).
Damp Stain(ing). Books suck. If a book has been exposed to moisture,
either through high humidity or by sitting on a shelf which is moist,
the covers and paper will absorb the H2O like a friggin' sponge. Once
it dries out, you may be left with a discolored, wrinkled mess on your
hands. There isn't much that can be done about it. Tip: keep 'em dry.
Deckled Edge. This is a rough, untrimmed edge of
a books' pages. It may be indicative of hand-made paper. Looks rather
sexy, in a crude, manly sort of way, but gathers dust like crazy.
Dedication. A tip o' the hat to friends, family, industry insiders, colleagues,
etc., which roughly translates to: "I want to thank everyone I sucked
dry while researching this book. You get to see your name in print, but
sadly you will not be seeing any of the big bucks".
Books generally fall into two major categories— fiction and non-fiction.
The market for fiction tends to be somewhat fickle. Authors fall in and
out of fashion depending on marketing, their writing ability, Hollywood
and who knows what. Non-fiction, tends to have better staying power, although
with technical advances, much of it becomes dated rather quickly. The
demise of books has been predicted for years, with competition from computers,
TV, e-books, etc., yet publishers keep cranking them out and you good
people keep buying them. Good on ya!
Dentelle. Gilt decorations along the outer edge of the
inner side of leather bound books. Got that?
Device. See colophon.
Door Stop. Any book I have had in
stock more than five years.
Donate. If you have some books in good condition, that
you don't need any longer, don't toss them. Give them to a reputable organization.
Your local library probably will take them and re-sell them at a book
sale. Contact the Library
Book Project for starters. As for charities, we are partial to the Salvation
Army, the local SPCA or Goodwill.
Dos-a-dos. Two books bound as one, back to back, occasionally
upside down, and different front and back covers, invariably leading to
confusion among paste-eaters.
Dust Jacket. Also known as a dust wrapper.
This is that annoying, paper thingy that wraps around the book and falls
into your lap every time you try to read the book. On highly collectible
books, the dust jacket can be worth many times the value of the book it
encompasses. Jackets are important to collectors for many reasons: most
importantly — completing the package. Many early jackets featured
artwork done by future prominent artists. There doesn't seem to be a consensus
on when the first dust jacket appeared, however, some have been noted
from the late-1800s. Some publishers have used blank paper as jackets.
Not very sexy, but it is probably better than no jacket at all. Colorful,
market enhancing jackets became commonplace after WWII. Tend to your jackets.
You may want to protect them with mylar book covers (after trying them
all, we prefer Demco products). Dust jackets will suffer normal shelf wear over the years.
Small edge chips and tears at the spine tips are normal, but not value
enhancers. A pristine dust jacket compared to a well worn jacket, on a
collectible book, may command a higher price by a factor of 10+. As an
aside, the latest trend in dust jacket art, is to embellish the jacket
with some fluorescent color that doesn't appear in nature. This cheap
ploy, an obvious attempt to disguise the author's lack of talent, guarantees
sales to all but the color blind.
(edition). An improved, revised or corrected copy.
Else. This one always cracks me up. It means otherwise.
It is used in describing a book thusly: Book is missing the title page,
rear cover has been gnawed on by a the family gerbil, only several illustrations
have been cut out, else fine. Profligate use of this
term implies that the bookseller believes that potential buyers are really
chumps. I only use it (the term, not the gerbil) once in a while.
End Papers. These are the blank pages in the
front and back of most books. Free end papers are loose (also known as preliminaries) and the ones that are glued to the insides
of the covers are called front and rear paste downs.
Ephemera. Printed items that are
meant to only last a brief time (by definition — a day). Posters,
newspapers, calendars, broadsides, advertising and the like. Hard to price.
A pain to store and display. Can be worth more than its weight in gold.
Not to be overlooked, but if decide to dabble in, you will earn your money.
Errata. Commonly appears as a single
sheet either bound in or loose, listing textual mistakes found after the
book went to press. A book with an errata slip present may command a premium,
not much of one, but one nonetheless.
Estimate of Value. See appraisal.
Ex-libris. A book from a library (public, private, circulating
or non-circulating). See condition. Ex-library
books are considered a pariah with most self-respecting book collectors.
Understandably, who would want to own a book that is is very overdue?
Occasionally an ex-libris book comes along that is truly rare, and thus
may justify a trip to the local book bindery for a nip and tuck job. Here
is an interesting, albeit lengthy, article on Librarians as Enemies of Books.
Extant. Means not destroyed or lost. It refers
to copies of books that still exist.
Facsimile. An exact copy of a previously printed work. Generally produced
and marketed as such because the original is difficult to obtain and warrants
enough interest to publish as an exact copy. Not to be confused with forgeries
which are intended to fake you out.
Fine Press (editions). Sort of a catch-all term for very
small printing firms. Press runs tend to be very small, books are usually
numbered and or signed. Bindings or the type of paper may be special.
Highly sought after by collectors. Most fine press operations are a labor
of love, since the economics of it just don't make much sense.
First Editions. Why do book collectors seek
first first editions? Beats me! The
subject of first editions requires some remedial background. Keep in mind
that every title ever printed, was at one time or another, a first
edition. This should help to remove some of the mystique. Technically
speaking, after the galleys (printing plates) are removed from the printing
press and subsequently put back in for another run, that then becomes
a new edition (or printing). In the good old days, printers were not at
all adverse to literally stopping the presses mid-run, pulling the galleys
and making their changes (typographical errors, broken type faces or textual
alterations) on the fly. The final outcome would be one press run, but
with several "states" or "issues" of the first edition. In the case of Charles Dickens for instance, a first
edition, first issue of his "Great Expectations" has hundreds
of "mistakes" or issue points. As mentioned earlier, Issue points
may be the result of a broken typeface, a spelling error, messed up punctuation,
unedited text, incorrect collation, binding changes
or a cadre of other potential goof ups. Remember, the more mistakes, the
more valuable the book becomes, go figure! In order to identify the issue
points, you need what is called a descriptive bibliography,
which will painstakingly give each issue point, the color of the binding
and other pertinent information. Many dealers and collectors enjoy the
discovery of issue points, and it is the mothers milk of bibliographers.
On older books, a primary clue to look for: Does the publishing date on
the title page match the date on the copyright page? If so, chances are
it is a first edition. Caveats: The copyright page may have multiple dates.
If attributed to other publishers, they may be magazine syndicated articles
or previously published illustrations that have been used to compile the
book. Often on pre-1900 books, there is a year difference from the title
page and copyright page dates, sorry, you will need to consult a bibliography
to nail it down.
As a rule, any given first edition is more valuable if it is printed in
the country of the author's origin. Mark Twain first editions published
in the good ole U.S. are worth more than Canadian or U.K. editions. Conversely,
works by Dickens are more valued if they are the British editions. You
get the idea. There are some exceptions, but you will have to figure them
Identifying first editions can be as complex as it is simple. The problem
is that each publisher tends to identify their first editions in a different
manner. Some publishers make it as easy as stating "first edition",
others make it a cryptic as possible. Why? Because they can. The problem
compounds itself when over the years, publishers merge, or change their
internal operating procedures. On more recent publications, if you look
on the copyright page, you may see a list of numbers. Depending on the
publisher, the first edition will have all numbers present starting with
a 0 or a 1. Subsequent printings will drop the next digit each time the
book is republished. The only way to really tell if a book is a first
edition is to have access to the proper reference materials. For identifying
most of the publishers in the US. and Britain, we recommend First
Editions. A Guide to Identification (edited) by Edward Zempel (Spoon
River Press). $60. This valuable book lists virtually every English language
publisher and their methods of stating first editions through the years.
A must for the serious collector. NOTE: If you are pondering
spending a weeks' wages on a particular book (especially fiction), ask
the dealer if he has verified the book's edition with Zemple. If (s)he
says "huh?", go somewhere else. First
and Second Printing Before Publication. (found on copyright pages)
I have never really understood this one. Isn't this akin to having a rare
coin with a date of 200 B.C.? Anyway, these prizes are not true first
editions, but evidently some sort of lame, propaganda ploy used by publishers
to pimp their sales numbers.
First Thus. After a book runs its commercial course with its original
publisher, the rights are often sold to another printing house. The new
publisher may want to stimulate the market for the new edition by embellishing
the new book with a particularly popular illustrator, a fancy binding
or some other feature. This reprint becomes a first thus or the
first edition of a new edition (think of "almost pregnant" as
far as value goes).
Flesh Side. The side of the leather that faced gutward,
prior the the unfortunate demise of said beast. Smoother than the hair
side, which is follicated.
Foolscap (F). Limey, for a piece of writing paper. Or
loosely, a book size related to the folded (once) sheets of foolscap paper
(17 x 13 1⁄2 inches), yielding a book roughly 8.5 x 6.5 inches.
Fore Edge. The part of the book you can't see while you are gazing
at the spine.
Fore Edge Painting. This is an art form which goes largely unnoticed.
An old book is clamped into a vice-like affair, exposing the fore edge
at an oblique angle and a second rate water-color painting is painted
thereon. Once the book returns to its former shape, the painting disappears,
only to reappear when the pages are once again fanned. Usually done on a gilt edge and
may go for many years undetected. They are rarely signed (for good reason!).
To this day, they are still being produced by sweet, little old ladies
in British dungeons and being passed off as old treasures (trust, me,
I learned this the hard way). Prices being what they are, extreme caution
Foxing. The brown discoloration often found on pages and plates
of older books. Aptly named, due to its color or the fact that it often appears as a cluster of small blotches resembling a fox paw print. Nobody knows
the etymology for sure, and in the grand scheme of things, it doesn't
really matter. Most likely caused by acidification of the paper as a result
of sulfuric acid used to bleach the pulp prior to the manufacture of the
paper. Some claim it may be the result of microscopic pieces of metal
from the printing process, but I'm not buying it. Not too much can be
done to alleviate the problem. There is an expensive process to de-acidify
the paper, but is generally limited to large, well-endowed institutions
(i.e. Dollie Parton University).
Free End Papers. These are the loose,
blank pages in the front and rear of the book. They are usually the result
of the imbalanced number of pages making up the gatherings when the book is put together. Don't panic! They are very convenient places
to hide $100 bills from your wife.
Front (Rear) End Papers. A catch all term which includes
the blank, loose and pasted-down sheets in the front or rear of a book.
Frontispiece. The illustration that faces the title page
of a book.
Galleys. The trays in which the metal type is laid. The galleys are placed into
the press, where ink is put to paper, to run proof copies for review,
before the final typesetting.
Gatherings. Confusingly, also known
as signatures or quires. As sheet of printed paper come off the press,
it is folded to form a group of pages. At this point it is blissfully
united with other similar groups which are then sewn or glued together
to form the bulk of the book. The edges are trimmed and ready to be cased
Genre. A style of literature or art.
If used by an individual conversationally more than once a year, evidence
of snobbery exists.
Gift Inscription. One of several ways to ruin a perfectly
good book. Do the book trade a favor and inscribe a $20 bill instead.
Gilt Edged. (t.e.g.) Top edge gilt & (a.e.g.)
All edges gilt. Before casing (binding) the book, the edges of the pages
are trimmed, smoothed down and gilded by placing a very thin layer of
gold foil on the edge. Often confused with gelding, but it doesn't hurt
quite as much!
Glassine. A plastic material used to protect bindings.
As opposed to mylar covers, glassine may be applied by the publisher with
some sort of heat shrink method.
Hagiography. The study of saints or of a "saint
like" individual. My name is strangely absent in most hagiographies.
Hair Side. The
side of a sheet of vellum that was originally exposed to the real world
as opposed to the flesh side. Evidenced by small hair follicle specks
and usually darker in color.
Half Title Page. One of the front, free end papers, with only the
book title appearing upon it, giving you a heads up of the forth-coming
title page. I guess they don't want you to die of surprise when you get
to the real thing. Reminiscent of the uvula (another useless appendage).
Half Binding (bound). The spine and
a portion of the boards (covers) are usually covered with leather. The
rest is covered in cloth.
High Spot(s). Think of the landscape of Booklandia as
being littered with pyramids. Each pyramid representing a particular genre,
author or subject (science, exploration, etc.). Let's pick on the literature
pyramid for example's sake: The rather broad base consists of authors
like Jackie ("... and then we did it again") Collins and her
ilk. Near the apex of the pyramid you find will authors that are actually
capable of writing and cogent thinking. These are high spots and are highly
valued by book collectors, as they should be, and it is where the real
($) action is! Each pyramid will have its advocates, who will debate eternally which author should sit, impaled on the highest stone. Ironically,
often the wealthier the author, the lower they seem to reside near the
bottom of the pyramid. Whoever said life was fair?
Hinge (or gutter). The inside of the front
and back covers where the joint is. "Hinges tender" means that
the end papers are starting to split at the junction
and deserve your sympathy.
Hinges Starting. This term means basically the covers are starting
to separate from the pages of the book. The pasted down end
paper is a single sheet of paper which also forms the front and rear
free end papers. After years of supporting the weight of the binding or
the gatherings, the paper might start splitting or give it up all together.
This is quite common on heavy and older books, especially with cheap bindings
and paper. It is easily remedied (on valuable books, consult with a professional)
by running a very small bead of "dries flexible" type glue along
the (try to use a little common sense here) split, remove the excess,
squish lightly along the seam and carefully close the book. Let the glue
set up for a couple of hours. The hinge will now live longer than you
will. End papers can be replaced by a reputable book binder (caution,
the color of the paper usually won't match the original pages. It's an
Hollow Back. If the spine is not physically attached
to the back of the book, there will be a space that allows the spine to
bow when the book is opened. Spines attached (tight backed) to the back
are prone to cracking.
Holograph(ic). Handwritten. Generally refers to an original
manuscript or an inscription.
Horn Book. Early educational primers. Used from the 15th
to the early 18th century. A lesson (the alphabet, a prayer, numbers,
etc.) was printed on parchment. For its protection it was covered with
very thin horn material which extended down to also serve as a handle.
Many had a hole in them so that they could be hung from a belt or girdle.
iana. (pronounced iana) This ubiquitous
little bugger (and its reprobate cousin — alia) is added as a suffix
to enhance virtually any word in the English language. Say you posses
the world's largest collection of Charles Bukowski books. Instead of calling
it a hoard of drunken ramblings, you call it Bukowskiiana. See how much more respectable that
Illuminations. In the days of monastic scribes (pre Gutenberg and
moveable type), the first letters of text (called initials or versos)
were highly decorated, often using 18 carat gold. Most of these prized pages were found in 11th to 15th century Breviaries, Book of Hours and
Antiphonies. Most of these books were broken up during the Victorian pillaging
and plundering era with the best leaves going into the British Royals
collection or well-endowed museums. Many less important leaves have survived
and can still be found in unlikely places. A working knowledge of Latin
comes in handy if you enjoy reading these puppies.
Illustrations. This subject goes well beyond the scope
of this screed. But here is a brief listing of terms you will run into,
on your quest for books, in rough chronological order of their usage:
Books (c. 1600s). A single carved block
of wood for each page (common in the Far East).
1700s). Pieces of hard wood were hand carved, placed in the printing
press, inked and imprinted.
17-1800s). Copper, steel and a variety of metals were engraved
with various tools, inked and imprinted.
1800s). Printing plates were made of limestone, carved, inked
Intaglio or Gravure (c. 1900s). Again, metal plates, more geared towards
"high speed" mechanical presses.
Offset / Halftone (c.
1900s). Chemical etching process, cheap, lacks high quality.
Impression. All of the copies of a book created during
a single print run. Synonymous with "issue",
i.e. First edition, third impression. This would translate
to: The third time the first appearance of the of the book was published,
using the original galleys or plates. From a collector's standpoint, not
a true first edition. Bummer.
Imprimatur. Often found on the title pages of books printed pre
1800. Usually on books with a religious bent. It is Latin for "Allow
to be printed." In other words it is a license to publish, issued by
some self-important fool.
Incunabula (Incunables). Refers to a book or printed matter
that was produced during the "infancy" of of printing, early to
mid-15th century. Quite rare and valuable. Here is the Wiki on the subject.
Index. Found in the rear of most non-fiction books. Simply
put, an alphabetized list of names, places, and subjects appearing in the
book, referencing the page or pages on which each item is mentioned.
ISBN. International Standard Book Number. A number ignored and scorned
by most of us in the trade.
Inscribed Copy. Signed by the
author with more than just a signature. Usually something like "
Tiffany Ashley, you were the best" See association
Issue Point. See edition.
Joint. No, not what used to be our bookstore, but the outer equivalent of the hinge.
"Joint cracked" or "joint starting" indicates that
the binding is split where the boards meet the back
strip. Joints can be repaired, but often pieces of the original material
is missing, making it hard to have a complete fix. Amateur book binders
will often fill the void with something looking like a low-grade asphalt.
Juvenilia. High priced, collectable kids books. Expect
to pay a premium for fine copies, considering most copies have been mauled
by Pretty Princess at some point along the way.
Leaf Book. A book that includes a page from the original
book or manuscript that it is about. Usually limited editions. Very scarce
(limited to the number of original pages). Highly collectible.
Letterpress. A generic term for printing done using typeface
(as opposed to plates). Most "fine press" books, almost by definition,
are letterpress creations.
Limited Edition. Generally a book published
in smaller, numbered print runs. Usually numbered by hand, embellished
with a limitation notice and author or illustrator signatures. Will often
precede the mass market trade edition. All things being equal, the limited
edition will always be worth more than the trade edition, usually by a
factor of 3 (I made this number up, but it seems pretty close, especially
after a couple of beers).
Laid (Paper). See chain lines.
Laid In. Usually a separate sheet such as an errata slip or promotional material that is included, but not actually bound
into the book. Also describes after-market material inserted into the
book, such as newsprint articles, gift cards, hundred dollar bills, etc.
Leaf. A single page in a book.
Limp Binding. Found on books that will never stand proudly
on a shelf. Usually suede. The word emasculated comes to mind.
Lithography. A printing process, usually for images,
as opposed to text, utilizing a carved piece of limestone as the printing
Loose Binding. Means the book is falling apart and in need of some
attention. On older books, the threads that were used in the sewing to
hold the book together have stretched or broken and need to be replaced.
This can be an expensive proposition, since the book needs to be taken
apart, trimmed and re-stitched. A major overhaul might be in order, often
times costing more than the book is worth. In older books, a narrow inner
margin (due to trimming of the sheets) may be a clue that the book does
not have its original binding, perhaps making it worth less.
Manuscript. Rough translation:
written by hand. Referring to an original work before it has been typeset.
Pre-computer, manuscripts were hand-written or typewritten, resulting
in only one original copy, making them highly sought after, especially
when written by popular authors. These days, most manuscripts are done
on a word processor, so it can be easily argued that multiple copies are
readily available, making a digital version virtually worthless in terms
of collectability. Imagine, if you can, the thrill of coming across the
20 floppy disk manuscript of The Hunt for Red October. Heart
be still! Collecting manuscripts can be a very frustrating endeavor and
determining values is fraught with peril. Many authors leave their book
collections, including manuscripts, to their alma mater or the school
they wish they had gone to, hoping you will think they were educated and
not just lucky.
Marbled. Marbling is the process of producing the interesting,
psychedelic (see joint) patterns that you see on many old books. Often found on the paste-down end papers or the edges
of the book. It is a very old process, originating in either (pick your
favorite) Persia or Japan. Globs of different colored inks are floated
on a gelatinous bath called sizing. The inks are then combed together
into original, one of a kind patterns. A sheet of paper is then laid down
on top of the pattern, lifted off with the groovy pattern affixed, dried,
cut to size and then bound into the book. Looks nice, but was such a common
practice at the turn of the century, that it doesn't really add any particular
value to an old book. It is now being faked (as in printed) on some of
the tony looking books you find stacked like cord wood at Sam's Club.
Is nothing sacred?
Marginalia. Annoying owner notes in the margins of a
book. If the offending marks extend into the actual text, it magically
becomes underscoring. If the notes are scribbled by the author, it becomes
Mildew. See stink. Not too much that can be done about it.
It may be an air-borne fungi and can spread to your other books. There
are quite a few homeopathic remedies available, none of which work: Baking
soda, sunlight, kitty litter, smelly fabric washing machine things, microwave
ovens. Ha! I spit in your face!
Misbound. Another word for defective. Occasionally a
book escapes the bindery with its cover bound upside down, backwards or
with some other malignant malady. Sorry, no value added.
Modern First Editions. Generally books (fiction)
published post World War II. Euphemistically refers to books by popular
and collectible authors. Be wary of pitfalls. If purchased for speculation,
beware of the sudden changes in trends. Pop culture (and the idiots comprising
same) may make a book "hot today, worthless tomorrow." Movies,
Oprah's Book Club (if that is still going) and other ephemeral whimsies
can punch up temporary interest, but it is best to get out while you can. Never invest in modern first editions that have been
rebound. You are being taken for a ride! There is a dealer in London who
rebinds every book that crosses his path,
in full leather, and sells them to clueless collectors for exorbitant
prices and laughs all the way to Barclays. Modern first collectors tend
to be fanatical about condition (which is fine, unless you are the bookseller).
I have had to refund a number of sales through the years, due to over-looked
dead bugs, remainder marks, smudged bottom edges,
etc. In a perfect world, modern first collectors would only find cheap, unread,
unclipped, mint jacketed copies available.
Moroccan (leather). A soft, fine grained material used
on higher quality bindings. Also known as levant.
Mylar. Very thin, polyester plastic, used to cover dust
jackets or book bindings. Usually folded or trimmed to size. If you must,
use 4 mil. thickness, it holds a fold. Any thicker is too thick.
Newbury Medal. Annual award for children's literature.
Named for John Newbury (1713-1767). Click for winners.
nd. No date of publication is indicated.
np. No publisher or city of origin is indicated.
de Plume. See pen name.
Obverse. The part of the book facing you when open.
Offsetting. Transference of
ink, acidity, glue or foxing to the opposing paper.
O'Henry Award. Annual award for Americans or Canadians
for best short stories. More.
Out of Print (OP). This is a book that is no longer being
published, nor is it in stock. Books go out of print so that they can
be assigned as required reading for college courses.
Pagination. The way that the pages of a book are numbered.
Most useful when used in conjunction with a bibliography to identify issue
points or editions.
Pain Avoidance. Avoid investing in: National Geographics,
Book Club editions, encyclopedias, (except the 11th ed. Britannica), dictionaries, most old text books, old law books (except commentaries and histories of..., computer books, romance novels, ex-libris books, diet books and
books that don't sell.
Paleography. The study and analysis of ancient texts,
medieval manuscripts and such. Often involves some detective work and
speculation. Guessing it doesn't pay well.
Palimpsest. Obscure. A page of parchment (or other durable writing material)
that has had its original text scraped off and replaced with new text
(also may appear as an overlay). The Archimedes
palimpsest is probably the best known of these enigmas. Researchers
are using high-tech tools in an attempt to decipher what Archimedes may
have written down on leather, only to have it (the text) scraped off and
recycled as a prayer book. Keepin' it green, even back then. Here's to
you Mr. Scraper Dude - A Real Man of Genius! This is one of those words
that the literati tools like to use for naming their unreadable works,
knowing full well, that nobody knows what it means.
Paper. Here is a pretty good site on the history of paper and paper making. Once upon a time, paper was
made from quality material, high in cellulose fiber. These days, it is
made from whatever the paper makin' guy can get his hands on, mostly low
rag content, recycled paper.
Paraph. An embellishment or flourish made after or below
a signature to prevent forgeries. Mostly found on older documents.
Parchment. Treated animal skinned, used for writing from
the 2nd to the 12th centuries. Replaced papyrus, only to be replaced by
Parts. In the mid to late 19th century, many popular
writers works were serialized. Every once in a while a new "chapter"
would come out, only to leave you hanging until the next issue emerged.
Obviously a capitalistic plot. In some cases (esp. Charles Dickens) these
parts were later bound together to become the "first cloth editions"
(bound books). Because the parts were cheap to print, they tended to be
fraught with typographical and textual errors. So, many of the earliest
copies of these books are wrought with mistakes or issue points. Book
purists tend to ignore "parts" even though they are the true
first editions, but don't shelve well.
Paste Down(s) End Papers. This are the portions of the
end papers that are glued to the inner surfaces of the covers. As opposed
to the truly liberated free end papers.
Pen Name. A fake name to protect the
identity of the author — for various reasons: Alimony, genre/gender
differentiation, witness protection programs, real name is moronic, previous
book(s) sucked... Synonym: nom de plume. Online
Perfect Binding. Perhaps the most inappropriate term of all time,
the result of a cruel joke perpetrated by fun-loving publishers. It is
of a type of paperback book. Once printed, all the pages are put together,
the inner margin edge is trimmed, a miniscule bead of glue is swiped on
said edge and the paper wrapper (cover) is stuck on. A perfect binding
is designed to last 30 seconds after you leave the checkout counter and
not a moment more. At which time the entire contents of the book will
fall on the floor, leaving you holding the "perfect" cover.
It costs the publisher almost nothing to produce these prizes, yet they
don't hesitate to charge you $18.95 for this piece of dross.
Philology. The love of words, or the study of languages.
Pictorial Paste Down. A color printed image that has
been glued to the cover of a hard bound book. Typically on older childrens
Pirate Edition. Books printed overseas in American
hating countries, thus avoiding all copyright, trademark and royalty fees.
Karl Tauchnitz (1761-1836) a German publisher, mastered the high art of
pirating, with over 5,000 titles to his name, which were sold to tourists
on the Continent. Many a collector has failed miserably, trying to collect
all of the Tauchnitz titles. Pirated books from the East, come printed
on some of the thinnest paper I have ever seen, making them very hard
to read. Aaarrgghh!
Points of Issue. See edition.
Pop-Ups (Movables). A book that has pages that "pop out"
when opened. Apparently they have been around since the 13th century,
gained popularity in the U.K., mid 1800s, and are still being produced.
For some reason, Singapore seems to have cornered the market on production
these days. Most are very ingenious, tend to be fragile and in spite of
being constructed for children, seem to be found mostly in grown-up collections. I keep threatening to collect these things, but I keep forgetting to keep them.
pps. (pages) that the book has. Usually only counts
the numbered pages, to the exclusion of end papers, advertisements, folding
plates, etc. Bibliographers care, no one else does. I have always
enjoyed 4 character abbreviations for 5 letter words, especially when
they don't make any sense.
Preliminaries. Refers collectively to the collective front end papers. For example "preliminaries are foxed."
Presentation Copy. A book given as a gift by the author. Usually signed
or inscribed in a more
personalized sense. In theory, the inscription should be dated the same
year as the publication of the book. Books with inscription dates subsequent
to the year of publication are not as highly prized, since they are the
result of an afterthought.
Proof Copy. Sometimes referred to
as review copies. These are usually soft bound versions of what will ultimately
become the real book. They are sent out to book reviewers and editors
to get some free proof-reading and test the waters for sales potential.
Modern first collectors will argue that these are the "true"
first edition, therefore the most sought after. Personally, I have never
cared for them, and would caution against investing any time or money
in them. Make me an offer on any you might find in my stock.
Prospectus. Propaganda regarding a forthcoming book,
sent to publishers in advance, or laid into an advance reading copy.
Provenance. The chain of ownership of a particular book
or collection is known as its provenance. Auction galleries are big on
trying to convince you that you should pay a premium for their lots, based
on an item's provenance, since the item was once manhandled by someone
of note. Book plates, signatures and letters of "authenticity"
may imply previous ownership. Don't always count on it. The market is
rife with fakes, forgeries and mischief. And, so what if the book was
owned by someone famous. When it's all said and done, what do you have?
If you feel the need to own other people's things, maybe it's time you
ask yourself, "why is my life so pathetic?"
Prices. There is no single price for any given
book. Like any commodity, a comparable price range can be established
based on sales records or other dealer offerings. Scarcity, condition,
initial cost of the item, varying dealer overheads, knowledge or lack
of same, and a myriad of other subtle factors come into play in pricing
any given book. Demand seems to ultimately drive the antiquarian book
market. Bottom line: if nobody wants it, it's not worth much! The Internet
has made consistent pricing laughable. Prices on any particular book might
range literally from $2 to $200. Bottomest line — you are on your
own. For your own protection, do your due diligence and try to buy from
a knowledgeable dealer.
Pseudobiblia. Books that only exist on paper. Necronomicon comes to
Pulp Fiction. Collectible. Paperback books printed during
the '30s and '40s on cheap (hence pulp) paper. Wide-ranging genres include
sci-fi, mysteries, pimpin', midgets, Mary Jane, horror, etc. Many popular
authors / illustrators cut their teeth writing / drawing for these poor-paying
publishers. The cover art work is worth a glance. The books can be spotted
fairly easily in the wild by size differentials (usually smaller in format).
Quire. See gatherings.
Raised Bands (ribs). Narrow ridges across the back of
the spine, covering the threads used in sewing the book together.
Raisonne. (rhymes with resume) A complete catalog of
works by a particular artist.
Rare. An extremely overused term! This is what it used
Scarce - An item that finds its way to the marketplace once in a year
Rare - May
show up on the market once in a decade
Very rare - Try once in a lifetime
One-of-a-kind - Only copy known to exist
The Internet has forever altered the traditional definition of "rare".
Rear End Papers. Front end papers that are in
Rebound / Recased. Rebinding a book seldom enhances its
value. Collectors tend to want items in fine condition, in their original
state. Obviously, a bound book is better than one with an old and busted
binding, but most rebinding jobs are done in such a hideous manner, that
it defies description. Professional bookbinding is very labor intensive
and materials are prohibitively expensive. Professional bookbinders often
study and apprentice for years and they are true artisans. A quality job
may cost many times the value of the book. People often want their old family Bible rebound. A cost/value analysis may entail more
sentiment than economic value. The most common type of rebinding a book
is replacing the spine (rebacking), while retaining the original boards.
Amateur bookbinders do it as a labor of love, and their enthusiasm may be
partially attributed to excessive inhalation of potentially dangerous fumes.
Do not trust your valuables with them. If in doubt on whether or not to
have a book rebound, consult with a reputable bookseller, if you can find
one (most are reputable, "find one" being the operative phrase).
Recto. The page on the right-hand side of an open book.
Books. Each genre of collectible books will have books about
those books. They may include bibliographies, biographies, checklists,
etc. You may find a book description with a brief notation referring to
the title and perhaps the page number where the book can be referenced.
For instance (a book from stock): Barler, Miles. Early Days in Llano. ...
Fine copy. Howes H-141, Rampaging Herd 206, Six Guns
140. (these references indicate that the book in question is considered
important enough to have been listed in several distinguished Western
Americana bibliographies). More.
Register. A book mark that is somehow permanently attached to the book.
Common in old bibles, keepsakes and Franklin and Easton Press books. Also,
in printer parlance, it is how well things line up, such as the individual
color edges of an illustration.
Reissue. A reprint, with no changes to the copy.
Remainder. After a book has run its commercial
course, the unsold copies are sold off cheaply by the publisher to "remainder
houses", where they are then sold through catalogs or discount book
stores for a fraction of the original price. Before leaving the publisher's
warehouse, the books are often irreparably scarred with an obnoxious, indelible marking pen to prevent them being returned
to the publisher for a "trade" refund. If the remainder mark
runs along the top or fore edge, it is a sure sign that the employee is
a spiteful, misguided soul, who actually hates books and should seek help.
Fortunately, most remainder marks are on the bottom edge and are unfortunately
not spotted by me until it is too late.
Replevin. A legal action to recover and return property
(books, manuscripts, maps, etc.) to its rightful owner.
Reprint. In collecting terms, any copy that is not a
first edition. This covers Book Clubs, second... third editions or impressions.
Resizing. Chemical washing of paper to eradicate stains,
marks or acid. Something conservators do in their spare time.
Review Copy. See proof copy.
Review Slip. The suckup letter included with a free copy
(of an as of yet unpublished book), that is sent to the hack critics,
by the publisher, hoping that they won't torpedo the work.
Revised (edition). Improved or brought up to date. By
definition, can't be a first edition, but may actually have more practical
Ribbed Spine. On older, usually leather bound books,
the ribs are those raised areas that are covering up the bundled threads
that tie the gatherings together.
term for the painted letter initials on early manuscripts. Example.
Sabin - As in Joseph Sabin (1821 - 1881). Briefly, an oft-cited bibliography, which is an offshoot of Mr. Sabin's (a 19th century bookseller and bibliographer) early catalogs. His extensive bibliography takes into account primarily early American works, and is very helpful for checklists, but please note that listings may lack crucial issue points.
Salesman's Sample or Dummy.
Around the turn of the previous century, books were sold door-to-door
by guys who spent an inordinate amount of time trying to get into the
farmer's daughter's knickers. They carried around thin sample books, that
usually had different covers on either side, representing two different
books and a sample chapter or two of the forthcoming work. Inside was
some lined paper, where subscribers names were listed and later submitted
to the publisher. The books were then sent via RFD to the buyer. I have
heard there is a person who collects sample books, but I have yet to meet
Scholarly. Referring to books that are written on a very
specialized subjects, with small audiences. I recall selling a rather
substantial collection on the Mites of Moths to various members
of some Mites Society. Small! That's what I'm talkin' about.
Book. Mentioned here only as an historical footnote. Book scouts were
among the first causalities of Internet book selling. These hardy souls
toiled full-time, in an effort to avoid any kind of gainful employment, all the while
searching out old books and re-selling them to the local book dealers.
Their gypsy-like lifestyles, closely held secrets and unadulterated moxie
is the stuff that legends are made of. John Dunning captured some of their
essence in his Booked
to Die. RIP. Addenda: The aforementioned book scouts have been supplanted by a new breed of technorati, who show up at the book sales armed with bar code readers, which can instantly inform them that the book in their hand is not really a book, but a commodity worth somewhere in the vicinity of 39 cents. Sadly, these pickers wouldn't recognize a good book if it whacked them on the arse. I have been told the key to making any money with these gadgets is related to college textbooks (their careers are soon to be cut short due to POD and electronic books). For the most part, these entrepreneurs seem content to make a dollar or two on the postage for each book sale. I hope it works out...
Published. Occasionally, an author will put quill to papyrus
(or cursor to screen), resulting in a manuscript so abysmal, that no one
in their right mind would consider printing the thing. The author, bemused
by humanities' inability to recognize his talent, takes it upon himself
to publish the work himself. Throughout history, many of these works have become "literary
treasures", although I can't think of any. By and large they tend to be small print runs on obscure, egocentric topics.
Copies may be purchased in bulk at the author's estate sale. Keep a sharp
eye out for the unopened crates.
Self Wrappers. A sort of hybrid book that is one moment
a paperback and the next something else.
Selling Your Books. (see Appraisal)
Selling your books is becoming an increasingly difficult proposition.
Almost all the brick and mortars outlets have closed due to the high cost
of doing business vs. the Internet. Unloading your books boils down to
five options 1) Wholesaling them to a dealer 2) selling them yourself (i.e. Ebay) 3) donating them 4) chucking them or 5) doing nothing at all (my personal favorite). Some random thoughts:
Book dealers will only buy what they think they can sell, in their lifetime.
Most book dealers are closet anarchists, with capitalistic tendencies,
reluctantly acknowledging that they do need to make a profit in order
to stay in business — don't judge them too harshly. Dealers will
not pay a premium for sentimental value. Nobody cares if the book belonged to your horse-thieving Grandpappy. Most people tend to overestimate
the value of their old books. Different dealers have different specialities,
expenses, profit margins and knowledge — the point being: results
may vary. The Internet has pretty much deflated prices for common books,
so don't expect to get much for them. Take what you can get and move on.
On your better books, you should expect to get 1/3 to 1/2 of what ever
the dealer thinks is the potential retail value (this number being the
key...). If the dealer is willing to pay more, he is either independently
wealthy or a Bozo, or worse yet — both. Higher-end dealers will
only be paying for your better items, the rest of the stuff becomes "stock",
with generally a long shelf life (pun again intended). Most dealers will
try to recoup their outlay as quickly as possible. Future sales cover
overhead and eventually will become profit (at least that's the theory).
The odds are stacked in your favor that you are probably wasting everyone's
time, if you try to sell: book club editions, Literary Guild books, magazines,
Reader's Digest Condensed, National Geographics, most text books, dictionaries,
broken sets, books in poor condition, law books, encyclopedias, most 19th
century fiction, Bibles, computer books, books published by Time-Life,
The Smithsonian, American Heritage, A.L. Burt and other cheap reprint
houses. There are exceptions to all of the aforementioned,
but the time you invest trying to figure it out, will far exceed any additional
monetary gain you can hope to realize. Don't forget, you can always donate
your books to your local library,
old folks' home, the military or a worthy charity. Get a receipt and and
take a couple-of-bucks-a-book tax deduction. Hey! The Clintons donated
their used underwear (insert gagging sound here) and took the deduction! Go for it!
Sets. Hard to sell. Most people don't have the shelf
space. Some sets are collectible due to the quality and craftsmanship
of the bindings. May be "deluxe" or limited editions. No hard
rules here, sets are on a case by case basis. Tip: to determine if you
have all the books and they are not individually numbered, check the last
volume for an index and work backwards.
Shaken. Whole lot of it has been goin' on. The book is falling apart.
Shape Book. A book that has a binding shaped to reflect
the subject matter (for instance: a horse, a train, a doll, etc.). Collectible.
Been around a long time. Fairly common among childrens' books. Check this hippie out.
Shelf Wear. Normal wear to a book as a result of being
on a shelf, being taken from a shelf and being replaced on a shelf. If
this process is repeated numerous times, the result will be more shelf
wear. If books are packed too tightly on a shelf, when a book is pulled
out by the spine tip, you are apt to tear the tip. Don't.
Signature(s). Also see gatherings.
Signed by the author, with preference given to books signed during the
year of publication. Signed with anything more than just a name, it becomes
an inscription. Signed by anyone other than the author, it becomes a defect.
Signed Bindings. These bindings are very decorative in
nature. Usually embossed, or embellished with heavy gilt. The "signature"
is printed, usually within or near the artwork. Popular on art nouveau
bindings. Several printing houses specialized in these bindings, Decorative
Designs being the most prolific. Frederick Goudy and Margaret Armstrong
are a couple of names that come to mind as collectible book artists.
Signed Copy. As a rule if the book is signed by the author
it is worth more, by anybody else, sorry it doesn't count. Inscribed refers to something more than just a signature (including just a date). Beware of autopen signatures, they are just what they sound like. Author signatures dated
subsequent to the year of publication usually indicates that a book dealer,
upon hearing that there will be an "author signing", scours
the town for all the copies of the particular authors' books, then stands
in line at the signing, with a box of books, for an interminable length
of time, then annoys the indignant author by asking him to sign all the
books. After assuaging the author by telling him that he is his biggest
fan, the dealer scurries off and attempts to sell the books on EBay. Some books are so poorly written, that it could be argued that
the author's signature may actually decrease the value of the book. There
are many instances that the proud author has signed so many copies of
his book, that the unsigned copies are the ones commanding a premium.
Many author "signatures" are printed on the page by the publisher
(some ironically, long after the poor shlub of an author has died). Please
don't call and tell me you have a signed set of Grant's Memoirs... you
Size. The size of a book is determined by the
size of the original sheet of printed paper and the number of times it
is folded. Groupings of these folded sheets (signatures) stitched or glued
together will comprise the book. Here is a short list of the abbreviations
and their approximate sizes (the numbers refer to the number of leaves,
or pages resulting from the folding):
Fo. — Folio. A large sheet folded a single time (or not at all). Huge
books that do not fit on any earthly shelf.
4to. — Quarto. The same sheet folded twice. Your typical
"coffee table" book.
8vo. — Octavo. The average size book. Your typical novel.
12mo. — Duodecimo. Getting smaller. Single sheet, folded
in thirds, then in half. Paperback size.
16mo. — Sextodecimo. Smaller yet.
24mo. — Vegisemo-Quarto. A 12mo., folded one
more time for good luck.
32mo. — Trigisimo-secundo or 32mo. A 16mo. on
64mo. — Sexagesimo-Quarto. For fun, try to fold
a single sheet of paper so you end up with 64 leaves.
Miniature. — Miniature. Real small,
easily misplaced and hard on the eyes. Also called a bibiolot, when
in fact, it should be called a bibioless.
Each of these
sizes has several variations within the size. An inexact science at best
and hardly worth the discussion. Included in book descriptions, it makes
book dealers feel important knowing that they know something you don't.
That said, if you see "8vo." in one of our descriptions, please
don't call and ask if it is an 8 volume set. It isn't!
Slip Case. These are protective boxes which come in many
shapes and varieties to accommodate whatever it is that they are protecting.
There is a variation called a clam shell case which resembles, well, a
clam shell. Cases are usually found on limited editions, fine press books,
art bindings, maps, etc.
Sophisticated (copy). En Garde! On
highly valued books, two or more defective copies of a particular book
may be taken apart and reassembled to create a flawless, seemingly complete
version — a sophisticated copy. Example: A rare folio that has been
in a library, with the usual identifying stamps, will be broken up and
reconstituted with perhaps a copy that is missing some plates and voila,
a new, complete, non-library edition. In theory, accurate collation should
expose the item as a fraud. Interestingly, many old books have been discovered
to be sophisticated copies, because the worm holes (yes, I said worm holes) didn't line up, or go completely through all the pages. On a more
pedestrian level, a high end "modern first" sans jacket (or
with a later state jacket), may be be blissfully mated with a stag first
edition dust jacket, creating a formidable union. HINT: On many modern
first editions, often the only way you can identify the true first issue
jacket, is by the price on the jacket flap. An unscrupulous dealer may
mix and match priced jackets with first edition books accordingly. On
books with some time under their belts, this ruse may be spotted by examining
closely any variations of offsetting from the
original jacket and sunning discoloration differences. If you are offered
one of these over-priced misfits, aim for the nose.
Spine or Back Strip. The part of the book that
faces you whilst it sits on a shelf (assuming you are sitting in front
of the shelf and not passed out on the floor, in which case you will wake
up staring at the bottom edge). All too often the
upper tip of a spine has split as a result of someone trying to remove
the book from a too-tightly packed shelf, also known as "thumb tears."
STC. Short Title Catalog (A.W. Pollard, 1926). A commonly
referenced work listing all titles by a particular author. It has been
updated periodically through the years. Sort of a poor-man's bibliography.
Stippled. Colored or tinted edges. Usually indicative of a Book Club edition.
Stiff Wrappers. A paperback book with a cover made from
a better grade of paper stock, often found on scholarly, university press
books or the like.
Stink. Books reeking of mildew, tobacco
smoke or cat pee... throw them overboard. See how easy that was?
Storage (FYI). If you must box
up your books, make sure they lay flat, spine to spine (this keeps the
front edges of one book from digging into the opposing book). Fill up
the empty space between the books with something, anything (crumpled butcher
paper, radioactive waste, etc.) to keep the things from shifting and rattling
around. Do not store in a damp environment. If you are compelled to stash
your boxes in the basement, raise the boxes off the floor. Concrete sweats.
Learn to love silverfish (Lespisma sacchrina), because they will love you. Mice (Mus sylvaticus) are attracted to binding glue and
will find a way into your boxes to get to it, guaranteed. Never put your books in zip lock bags or wrap them in saran wrap. Moisture will
get in and will not be able to find its way out (rather like an osmotic
roach motel) and your books will smell like my socks after a hearty workout
Sunning. Fading to the covers and or spine as a result
of an overdose of light. Could just as easily be called fading, but admittedly
there is a touch of the exotic with a tropical sounding name.
Supralibros. (trans. over or on top of book) An ownership mark (armorial or heraldic) imprinted on the front cover of a book.
Tail. The bottom of the spine. Freudian. Or is it Darwinian?
t.e.g. Top edge gilt.
Three-Decker. During the Victorian
era, it was not uncommon to print a single title in three matching volumes.
Fiction seems to have predominantly assumed this role, some being first
editions, others early reprints.
Three-Quarter Binding (bound). Same as a "half"
bound book, except the fore edge corners are also bound in leather.
Thumb Index. Rounded and indented cuts into the fore
edge of a book. Usually marked with a letter or subject for quick access.
Tipped-in Plates. Often on higher quality, illustrated books, the
color plates are printed separately on a better grade of paper and glued
lightly along one edge to a blank page. Often the plates have tissue guards
to keep the ink from offsetting to the opposing page. A nice touch.
Tips. Tips are at the top and bottom of the spine.
Tip: As in "tips are worn."
type of cheese. Also refers to a large or scholarly book. The French consider
it a single volume within a set of collected volumes, thus bringing us
full-circle back to the cheese.
Indicates decorations on the binding. Most often used in describing leather
Trade Edition. This is the mass marketed edition of a
book that you see stacked up at Wal-Mart. As opposed to a limited editions,
which seem to be falling out of favor with publishers due to escalating
costs and declining markets.
Triple-Decker. See three-decker.
Unabridged. See abridged.
Proof. See proof copy.
Uncut. After the gatherings are sewn or
glued together, the publisher may or may not want to trim the fore edge
of the pages. If they are left uncut, it leaves a rather ragged, deckled look. If trimmed, it just looks pretty much like any other book.
Unopened. If the pages of your old book can not be read without
bending your head at a 90 degree angle and sticking your face into the
half-opened pages, the book is unopened. If after this exercise, you are
still inclined to read the thing, take a dull knife or 3x5 index card
and using a continuous stroke slowly draw the edge outwards, severing
the offending pages. If you are the village idiot, feel free to use your thumb or forefinger.
Vade Mecum. Latin: "goes with me." Small reference
books. Once carried on medieval belts by astrologers, physicians, tradesmen,
Value. To be or not to be confused with price,
but in reality they are pretty much the same thing. Value is sort of a price we put on things, but it doesn't mean anything. What? I guess we will just have to leave it to
those brilliant economists to sort out any definitional hairs.
Variant. Refers to variations in the description of a book that
do not appear in a descriptive bibliography.
Sadly, variants have been known to lead to premature, self-induced deaths
of bibliographers, due to the fact that most variants are discovered by
amateur book collectors, one or two days after the latest edition of a
bibliography goes to press.
Vellum. See binding.
Verso. The page on the left-hand side of an open book.
w.a.f. (with all faults). This is Latin for crap. It
means the bookseller is too lazy to list the innumerable problems book
in question has. Should you encounter this term in a book description,
Watermark. Some paper builders will include an identifying mark on each sheet of
paper they produce. The paper may have to be held up to the light to reveal
this translucent little treasure.
(paper). See chain lines.
Wrappers. A softbound or paperback book. Wrappers sounds more important
than "paperback", therefore a higher price will be justified.
Wrapper(s), Dust. see dust jacket
Yapp (binding). Limp bindings that have edges that wrap
around the sides of the book.
Zowie. You made it! Now, cart your fully-enlightened
soul back to the BookMine and start collecting.